It can be hard to choose the right diet for your pet because there are so many options available, both over-the-counter (OTC) and via prescription. There is also a lot of marketing out there telling you what is “best” to feed your dog or cat that may be misleading or untrue (like dogs with food allergies needing a grain-free diet).
We recommend three diet lines as our top choices for pet food due to their long history of extensive research, trustworthy ingredients, and board certified veterinary nutritionists on staff that work on diet development and are always available to answer questions. Royal Canin, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary, and Hill’s Science Diet are all high quality lines that offer extensive options to cater to any pet’s dietary requirements, whether they be breed specific, life stage, or prescription.
So, what should you take into consideration when choosing a diet for your dog or cat?
Life Stage refers to the age of your pet. Puppies and kittens have different dietary requirements compared to adult and senior pets.
A distinction often directly related to the pet’s life stage. You may see some diets listed as being for “sporting” or “working” dogs, meaning they may have more protein or are higher calorie diets. You will also see “indoor” formulas in cat foods.
For overweight or obese pets there are OTC and prescription diets available. One should not feed low calorie diets to underweight pets. After a pet is spayed or neutered, keep in mind they do have a tendency to gain weight after, so he or she will have reduced calorie needs as their metabolism slows.
Royal Canin has a line of diets for specific breeds of dogs and cats and these diets will be formulated for them. You can find diets for Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, Labradors, Persian cats, Maine Coons, and Bengals, to name a few.
Prescription diets are used for a myriad of health issues, and we will discuss your pet’s needs regarding these diets when they are diagnosed. Prescription diets are available for urinary issues (crystals), weight management, kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, stress and anxiety, allergies, dermatologic health, chronic gastrointestinal issues, and more. If your pet is prescribed a specific prescription diet you often cannot use an OTC diet to replace it. However, you can try a different brand of veterinary prescription diets if palatability becomes an issue.
A high quality and appropriate diet can prevent health issues later in life. Controlling your pet’s weight when they are younger can prevent complications from arthritis and diabetes as they age. Controlling allergies saves you money on treatments long term and your pet doesn’t have to take as many medications. Slowing down the progression of kidney or liver disease allows them to live a longer, fuller life. Preventing the formation of urinary crystals saves you money on treatments and medications, and possibly prevents surgery in the event of a urinary blockage (which can be fatal, especially in male cats).
We always take the pet’s preference into account. You can definitely find a diet that can fit their needs, tastes, and your budget. When discussing a diet or diet changes, let staff know if your pet likes dry food, canned food, or a combination. With cats, they should eat about 50% dry/50% wet, ideally.
Cost varies based on the quality of the diet, however, boutique diets are often expensive without reason. Prescription diets are more expensive than OTC diets due to the research and support behind the diets, as well as the ingredients and manufacturing practices used. Many “boutique” diet brands have not been around long enough to have the research behind their diets nor do they have veterinary nutritionists on staff.
Of the OTC diets, you do not have to go for the most expensive “boutique” diets, but you also shouldn’t reach for the cheapest bag you can find at the grocery store. Often, something in the mid-range of pricing is a perfectly good diet for your pet. Look for AAFCO approval on the diet if you aren’t sure on the quality.
If you ever have any questions regarding diets and nutrition for your pets just give us a call and a staff member would be happy to assist you. We are also happy to look over any diets you are considering before purchasing.